Obituary: Sir Roy Griffiths

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The Independent Online
Ernest Roy Griffiths, businessman: born 8 July 1926; director, Monsanto Europe 1964-68; director, J. Sainsbury plc 1968-91, deputy chairman 1975-91, managing director 1979-88; Chairman, Management Inquiry, National Health Service 1983; Fellow, Institute of Grocery Distribution 1975, President 1985-87; Kt 1985; Deputy Chairman, NHS Management Board 1986-89; Adviser to the Government on the NHS 1986-94; Deputy Chairman, NHS Policy Board 1989-94; Provost and Chairman of Governors, London University School of Agriculture, Wye College, Kent 1989-94; President, Age Concern England 1989-94; married 1952 Winifred Rigby (one son, two daughters); died London 28 March 1994.

ROY GRIFFITHS was a man of outstanding ability, of great shrewdness, wisdom and compassion, writes Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover. His sense of humour was renowned and never far from the surface, however critical the issues being considered. His was a truly generous nature and, not surprisingly, he commanded respect and admiration from all those who knew him, either as a businessman or later in his career when he chaired the Management Inquiry into the National Health Service.

Griffiths played a key role in the success of Sainsbury's from the moment he joined the company in 1968. That timing was particularly fortunate, coming as it did as the top management of the company passed to the fourth generation of the family. As Director - Personnel and Administration - from 1969 to 1975, he established policies that in their day were both advanced and far-sighted and therefore made an important contribution to the successful expansion of the company.

In 1975 he was appointed deputy chairman and in addition, in 1979, managing director, retiring from executive duties in 1988. It was his vision and direction as deputy chairman that was largely responsible for Sainsbury's early lead in the use of new systems and technology which resulted in a considerable competitive advantage.

The quality which was in some ways more valuable to his immediate colleagues than any other was his marvellous grasp of the essential priorities in any business situation. From the start, he understood the nature of the business: what made it tick; what made it different; and, most important, what was needed to keep those traditional values and priorities at a time of rapid expansion that involved new methods of operation.

Roy's brilliance took many forms. He was a great speaker at all occasions, making his contribution to conferences invaluable and business dinners far more enjoyable than they otherwise would have been.

As a business negotiator he was unrivalled and as a communicator he had exceptional flair. He seemed to get the best out of those that worked with him and was always recognised as a source of the best advice. He made a distinguished contribution to trade associations, especially the Institute of Grocery Distribution, of which he was President from 1985 to 1987.

For 20 years we worked together and for most of that period he was my closest colleague. His loyalty was total, his friendship unwavering and his wisdom and support were a source of great strength to me.